Universität Zürich

IKMZ - Department of Communication and Media Research

Media Change & Innovation Division

Andreasstrasse 15
CH-8050 Zurich
Phone +41 (0)44 635 20 92
Fax +41 (0)44 634 49 34
Contact

News

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    The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of everyday life. Especially when it comes to working and shopping, Swiss people want to see most of these changes remain in the long run. These are results of the World Internet Project – Switzerland 2021. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, everyday life in Switzerland has been severely restricted since March 2020 and many activities have increasingly shifted to digital spaces. This forced digitalization push is most pronounced in the area of remote working: Whereas before the pandemic, employed internet users spent just under 20 percent of their employed hours working from home, during the pandemic it was more than 60 percent. Post-pandemic, they wish to work from home about two days of the week.

    "There are clear differences between the digitalization push forced by Covid-19 in the short term and what is desired in the long term," emphasizes Prof. Michael Latzer: "Many Swiss internet users discovered the advantages of working from home and of using cashless payments during the pandemic, but the limits of digital alternatives also became apparent, particularly in personal relationships." For example, the share of social gatherings taking place online increased from 9 to 25 percent because of the pandemic; in the long term, the ideal share is 12 percent.

     

    95 percent of the Swiss population use the internet in 2021. Among those under 70, it is almost 100 percent. 86 percent of the total population also use mobile internet in 2021, which is more than four times as many as ten years ago. Internet usage time doubled between 2011 and 2019 to 3.5 hours and experienced another significant increase during the corona crisis, reaching 4.5 hours a day in 2021.

     


    The full results can be accessed below in five research reports (in German) and seven infographics.
     

    Special Report 2021: Digitalization Push due to Covid-19

     

     

     

    Research Reports 2021 (Themenberichte)



    Infographics

    • How has the Internet in Switzerland evolved during the past decade? (English / German)
    • How has everyday digital life in Switzerland evolved during the past decade? (English / German)
    • How have applications of everyday digital life in Switzerland spread during the past decade (English / German)
    • Digitalization push due to Covid-19: Short-term forced vs. long-term desired (English / German)
    • Digitalization push due to Covid-19: Icrease in concerns remains low (English / German)
    • How do the young and the old differ on the Internet? (English / German)
    • How common are digital assistants and self-tracking apps in Switzerland in 2021? (English / German)
  • The Media Change and Innovation Division, Department of Communication and Media Research (IKMZ), University of Zurich is seeking applications for a fully funded postdoctoral position. The successful applicant will devise and conduct original theoretical and empirical research in the fields of digital media use, well-being, algorithms, governance, privacy, and dataveillance starting in early 2022 (see recent Publications for research focus areas and our new project on the chilling effects of dataveillance).

     

    → Read the full job description and apply

     

    Contact for further information: Dr. Moritz Büchi (m.buechi@ikmz.uzh.ch)

  • The Media Change & Innovation Division is featured in this year’s virtual European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) European Communication Conference. The conference theme is “Communication and Trust” and parallel sessions will take place from 7 to 9 September.

     


     

    Wednesday, September 8th, 09:00 - 10:30, Room 23


    In a Digital Culture and Communication session on vulnerabilities and inclusion, Kiran Kappeler will present research conducted with Noemi Festic and Michael Latzer on who remains offline and why in a highly digitized society based on long-term data from the World Internet Project – Switzerland.

     

     

     

     


     

    Thursday, September 9th, 11:00 - 12:30, Room 4


    Moritz Büchi will chair the Communication and Democracy session on participation and community and present a paper on conceptual and empirical advances in the chilling effects of dataveillance (co-authored by Noemi Festic and Michael Latzer) from the division’s new research project.

     

  • The Media Change & Innovation Division received funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) for a new project entitled The Chilling Effects of Dataveillance: Conceptual Advances and Empirical Evidence for Switzerland.

     

    Over the course of 3.5 years, this project will study the inhibitory effects of people's sense of being surveilled on their digital communication behaviors. The project is interdisciplinary and will combine theory development with qualitative, quantitative, and computational methods. The research team will address inter alia the following questions:

    • Does an increase in dataveillance increase inhibited digital communication, i.e., lead to chilling effects?
    • How do internet users experience chilling effects? What kinds of communication and which groups are most affected?
    • What are viable governance options for dataveillance practices?

     

    Altogether, the project will provide critical building blocks for a broad rethinking of what the datafication and digitalization of everyday life mean for privacy, autonomy, democracy, and human well-being. More information on the project page.

  • The new article "Digital Trinity – Controllable Evolution – Everyday Religion. Characteristics of the Socio-Technical Transformation of Digitalization" by Michael Latzer takes a look behind the technologically sober facade of the concept of digitalization. You can access the full article here. A German version of the article is available here.

     


  • There are two new publications available online:

     

    Festic (2020) provides empirical evidence for how algorithmic-selection applications govern different life domains from qualitative interviews with internet users in Switzerland. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/rego.12333

     

    Based on representative survey data, Kappeler, Festic and Latzer (2020) reveal an increasing social stratification in internet non-use in the Swiss society. https://www.mediachange.ch/media//pdf/publications/nonuse.pdf

  • Sind Corona Contact-Tracing Apps zu empfehlen?


    Auf Basis der alleinigen Debatte des Datenschutz-Designs der App is dies nicht der Fall, bzw. kann das nicht seriös beantwortet werden. Ein umfassende Abwägung fehlt und hat auch folgende Fragen zu berücksichtigen:

     

    Technologisch fehlerfrei? Wie beeinflusst die unmittelbare Umgebung die Funktion bzw. Bluetooth-Signalqualität? Können beispielsweise Trennwände berücksichtigt werden? Gemäss der sog. Heinsberg-Studie (als Pre-Print am 04.05.20 bei der Universität Bonn erschienen) zeigen 22% der Infizierten gar keine Symptome. Wie hilft eine App hier?

     

    Die App-Wirksamkeit variiert mit der App-Nutzung und der Smartphone-Verfügbarkeit. Alte Menschen, Kinder oder Arme sind hier am schlechtesten eingebunden - mögliche blinde Flecken? Findet die App-Nutzung stets in beabsichtigter Form und fehlerfrei statt? Ist das Verständnis und die korrekte Befolgung auch bei Gruppen mit geringen digitalen Fähigkeiten plausibel? Erweckt die App ein falsches Sicherheitsgefühl was folglich eine schädliche Leichtfertigkeit im Handeln begünstigt?

     

    Was sind politische Folgekosten? Handelt es sich um einen Dammbruch durch den Aufbau technischer Überwachungsstruktur? Reduziert eine Einführung heute die Anwendungs-Hemmung bei zukünftigen Krisen (z.B. Kontakt zu Gefährdern)? Ensteht ein sozialer Nutzungsdruck anstatt echter Freiwilligkeit? Ähnliche Bedenken existieren zur Einführung eines möglichen Immunitätspasses.

     

    Entstehen hohe ökonomische Folgekosten aufgrund vieler vorbeugender Arbeitsausfälle durch App-Alarm-Quarantänen? Ist Missbrauch davon eine Gefahr?

     

    Ist der Datenschutz optimiert? Ist eine nicht-technische Alternative nicht die datensparsamste Variante?

     

    Zur Beurteilung einer Contact-Tracing App braucht es eine differenzierte Debatte über deren Sinnhaftigkeit und Notwendigkeit. Ein starker Fokus auf Datenschutz maskiert, dass auch technische Funktionsfähigkeit, soziale Nutzung und Folgen sowie empirische Wirksamkeit zu klären sind.

     

    Existieren andere, geeignetere nicht-technische Alternativen wie rigoroses, gezieltes Testen, Ermächtigung zur Selbstverantwortung und geschulte Contact-Tracing Teams?

     

    Viele Aspekte sind derzeit offen und ungeklärt. Fazit: Keine Empfehlung für App-Nutzung ohne systematisches Technology Assessment. Technik ist nicht automatisch die beste Lösung.

  • Most internet users are confronted with algorithmic selection on a daily basis – but only some of them are aware of this. For example, two thirds (66%) realize that content displayed to them online is similar to what they have viewed in the past. Half of internet users (54%) sometimes feel that search results have been sorted specifically for them. Higher-educated and younger internet users more often report having such experiences with algorithms when using the internet. “Despite high daily use, there is astonishing ignorance. For instance, eight in ten do not know that their Facebook news feeds are curated by algorithms and not by humans,” explains Michael Latzer, Professor of Media Change & Innovation at the University of Zurich.

     

     

    The survey further reveals that trust in algorithmic online services is low in Switzerland. Only a quarter of internet users (27%) state that they trust online services and just 14% consider most information on the internet to be trustworthy. If it were up to them, six out of ten users (59%) would not allow social media such as Facebook and Instagram any influence over topics that are important to them. A third (34%) also feel that they are completely losing control over their data on the internet. Such negative assessments tend to be more common among younger internet users. Six out of ten further believe that they have to accept that privacy no longer exists on the internet and 28% no longer even try to understand how services like Google Search work.

     

     

    Michael Latzer summarizes: “It should not be neglected that the everyday life of average Swiss internet users is greatly influenced by algorithms, but they know little about them. This creates uncertainty in the population regarding the power of algorithms, results in low self-protection and a feeling of powerlessness. The resulting desire for more control and transparency must be taken seriously.”

    Research Reports (Survey)

     

    • Latzer, Michael / Festic, Noemi / Kappeler, Kiran (2020): Use and Assigned Relevance of Algorithmic-Selection Applications in Switzerland. Report 1 from the Project: The Significance of Algorithmic Selection for Everyday Life: The Case of Switzerland. Zurich: University of Zurich. http://mediachange.ch/research/algosig [forthcoming]
    • Latzer, Michael / Festic, Noemi / Kappeler, Kiran (2020): Awareness of Algorithmic Selection and Attitudes in Switzerland. Report 2 from the Project: The Significance of Algorithmic Selection for Everyday Life: The Case of Switzerland. Zurich: University of Zurich. http://mediachange.ch/research/algosig [forthcoming]
    • Latzer, Michael / Festic, Noemi / Kappeler, Kiran (2020): Awareness of Risks Related to Algorithmic Selection in Switzerland. Report 3 from the Project: The Significance of Algorithmic Selection for Everyday Life: The Case of Switzerland. Zurich: University of Zurich. http://mediachange.ch/research/algosig [forthcoming]
    • Latzer, Michael / Festic, Noemi / Kappeler, Kiran (2020): Coping Practices Related to Algorithmic Selection in Switzerland. Report 4 from the Project: The Significance of Algorithmic Selection for Everyday Life: The Case of Switzerland. Zurich: University of Zurich. http://mediachange.ch/research/algosig [forthcoming]

    News

    Infographics

     

    Selected Figures for Download

    About the Project

    The aim of the project “The Significance of Algorithmic Selection for Everyday Life: The Case of Switzerland” is to empirically investigate the significance of online applications that employ algorithmic selection for everyday life in Switzerland. The project evaluates use, awareness, risk awareness and protective behavior in five life domains: social and political orientation, commercial transactions, social interactions, entertainment and health.

     

    The project is carried out by the Media Change & Innovation Division of the Department of Communication and Media Research (IKMZ) at the University of Zurich under the direction of Prof. Michael Latzer. It is based on a representative online survey of 1,202 internet users aged 16 and over, conducted by the LINK Institute from November 2018 to January 2019. The method-mix further included qualitative interviews and a representative tracking of the respondents’ internet usage behaviour using passive metering software. The project is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).

  • Out now in Oxford Research Encyclopedia Communication. Our systematic review of the debate on the impact of and policy reactions to algorithmic-selection applications on the internet. You can access the article here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.904 or directly on our homepage: https://mediachange.ch/media/pdf/publications/Latzer_Just_2020_Governance-by-and-of-Algorithms.pdf

     

    Internet-based services that build on automated algorithmic selection processes, for example search engines, computational advertising, and recommender systems, are booming and platform companies that provide such services are among the most valuable corporations worldwide. Algorithms on and beyond the Internet are increasingly influencing, aiding, or replacing human decision-making in many life domains. Their far-reaching, multifaceted economic and social impact, which results from the governance by algorithms, is widely acknowledged. However, suitable policy reactions, that is, the governance of algorithms, are the subject of controversy in academia, politics, industry, and civil society. In our article we provide an overview on the approaches, assessments and debates regarding the governance by and of algorithms on the internet.


  • The new World Internet Project – Switzerland summary report highlights major developments and trends of the past decade, based on our representative, long-term biennial studies since 2011 with more than 5500 respondents.

     

    In 2019 more people are online than ever: Today, 92% of the Swiss population use the Internet. Internet penetration in Switzerland is thus among the highest worldwide. One major trend of the 2010s has been the rise of the mobile Internet with now 80% of the population using it compared to 20% a decade ago. The number of non-users has been more than halved in the past eight years. Four out of ten non-users benefit indirectly from the Internet by having others buy something online, search for information, or write emails on their behalf.

     

    In 2019, the Internet remains the most important media source for both entertainment and information purposes and is of even greater importance in 2019 than in the years before. Overall, the self-evaluation of Internet users in Switzerland regarding their Internet skills has been remarkably stable since 2011. Women rate their Internet usage skills as poorer compared to men; nearly all 14–19-year-olds rate their skills as very good or excellent. Average usage time has doubled since 2011 and now amounts to 25 hours per week.

     

    Diffusion of Mobile Internet by Age 2011–2019 in Switzerland | Data basis: Swiss population 14+, WIP-CH.

     

    The Swiss population is skeptical that the Internet can improve the democratic quality of the politics in Switzerland. Surveillance possibilities prompt users to censor their self-expression and information seeking online. A majority acknowledges further risks of Internet use. Around three quarters of respondents worry that people rely too much on the Internet. Especially young users also experience digital overuse. Nevertheless, generally, digital well-being is high as Swiss Internet users rate their abilities to cope with the challenges of the digital era as high.

     

    The English-language summary report, four special reports (in German), and further information is available here.